Thanks to Peter Cranie for today’s guest post. Peter is the North West England Green Party’s lead candidate for the 2014 European election and is currently a candidate for leadership of the Green Party of England and Wales when Caroline Lucas MP steps down in September 2012.
In 1983 my father faced redundancy for the third time. A choice had to be made. Stay and face the likelihood of not working or go south for a job near London. Our family, like many others, migrated. In our case, it was from Bo’ness to High Wycombe, despite my protests at the time.
Even without direct barriers, migration is not an easy decision. You move away from family and friends. Your children are moved from their familiar school to one where they stand out as different. It is not a decision to take lightly, but it is one that is being forced on many families, in the UK and around the globe.
I currently work in Skelmersdale, a new town, which promised a better life to thousands from Liverpool. Our college musical to commemorate Skelmersdale’s 50th anniversary made members of the audience cry as the songs asked where the jobs and promise of a new life went. I live in Liverpool, a city that faced the wrath of Thatcher during the 1980s. Despite its defiance Liverpool has seen depopulation over the past few decades, as some of its brightest and best have left.
At a time when we want to build stronger communities, towns and cities, there is a need for government policies that redistribute wealth from the richest regions to the poorest on a much bigger scale. We need not just the affluent suburbia around London to do well, but the forgotten valleys of Wales and former industrial towns of the north to be at the heart of our goal to build a fairer and sustainable society.
I was one of the migrant gang at school, with Ishrat, Shirwan and Dudley. We need the voice of redistribution to also speak for those who take the difficult decision to uproot from their homes not just to escape war, persecution or environmental degradation, but also for economic reasons and develop a future together united by common social and environmental goals.
Ed Miliband has recently pushed the debate on migration into the spotlight. Unfortunately, he has chosen to use the kind of narrative which is being applauded by right-wing Tories, UKIP, and even the BNP. The Green Party must make the argument that while social, economic and environmental inequalities continue on a European and Global scale, immigration to Britain, one of the world’s richest countries is not just inevitable, it is a logical consequence of the way our global economy works.
At its 2011 autumn conference the Green Party of England and Wales voted to reiterate its support for a liberal immigration policy on the grounds that everyone is equal, whatever the colour of their passport. This was the overwhelming vote of the party conference and it shows that the Greens are not the party to change their tone to suit a small subset of voters in swing marginal seats.
We can’t shy away from this issue, and nor should we allow the bigger parties to use immigration to distract attention from other challenges, like the need to redistribute wealth. If elected as Green Party leader, I would want to strongly make the case to defend immigrants, and to bring the real migration debate into focus. I know from experience that a great deal of economic migration is down to necessity. The language used in our media, with talk of “floods” and “invasion” comes close at times to inciting hatred. We need voices in politics that will challenge and discredit this. It is only by facing up to the real challenges of addressing national, European and Global poverty and inequality that can “stop” immigration.
We are the party of redistribution. We will talk about taxation and we will make the case forcefully. Politics doesn’t need another party to fight over swing voters, but a brave and radical vision. That is what is on offer from the Greens.